(All rights reserved. All characters and events are fictitious, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.)
The Alimentorum Recruitment Holographic Pod is situated ten quadrants across Yum-Yum City from where Edwear Linnet works at Newtrishia Mission Control. From the scant information he's gleaned from her over the last few months, Kainya will be asleep, a few quadrants further on, in her five-star minipartment provided by Alimentorum as part of her recruitment agent package. Perhaps he'd drop in on her afterwards. Yum Yum City, one of the first planets colonised beyond the original solar system in the first galaxy, is entirely covered in one sprawling metropolis and where dawn was a few hours ago for Edwear, in this mid-west section of the city, dawn is still approaching.
Edwear checks the quiet walkway near the Holographic Pod. There is no one around save for a few spacedrubs asleep in a doorway. No one from NewTrishia Mission Control would be here but Edwear wouldn't put it past Senior Rabette to have them all followed.
He sighs to himself. The very fact he feels no loyalty to his boss, or Newtrishia, makes this the right thing to do. Kainya keeps telling him as much. Look at all the things he could do if he wasn't being held back by Rabette. He steps inside and the Holopod lights up as the door quietly slides shut behind him. As the walls start to dissolve, Edwear has a moment of panic, what if this is all a trap but, before he can turn and run, the holographic host appears.
'Welcome to Alimentorum, please take a seat and watch. My name is Mentor. I will be with you all the way. I am so pleased you chose Alimentorum today. You can use the panel on your arm rest to rewind, fast forward or input data. What is your name?'
Edwear blinks rapidly at the image unfolding around him. The tiny Holopod is just big enough for a chair and himself. The walls, white and curving to form an infinity dome are now lost in a projection of the foyer at Alimentorum HQ.
'What is your name?' Mentor asks again.
The panic subsides and Edwear sits down. 'Edwear... Edwear Linnet.'
There is a slight pause, maybe a technical glitch in the programme and then Mentor replies. 'Welcome Mr. Linnet to Alimentorum. We are going to take a three dimensional tour of our flagship headquarters based in the second galaxy while a voice-over from our founder will explain all about our success story as one of the five galaxies' top food corporations...'
Edwear settles back in his chair as his tour starts.
Edwear Linnet's name and voice pattern triggers an alert in the Holopod software and a scanbot is sent direct to Sayonara Spaceport's Alimentorum office where it is automatically routed to Kainya's bleeper. She downs the rest of her coffee and checks the alert. After months of trying to get Edwear to defect to Alimentorum, he chooses today, when she is several galaxies away to take the first step. Her cover is in danger of being blown. She sends a subalert direct to the holopod on an Alimentorum back channel. Recruitment would have to handle him. Today, she had bigger fish to fry.
Mentor rolls over as the alarm rings loudly, only it isn't the alarm. It's the office. He yawns and stretches and replies tetchily.
'Yes? Do you know what the time is?'
'Good morning Mentor. Yes, it is time for you to get up. We have a situation.'
Mentor recognises the his area manager's voice. 'Sorry, I was asleep. What's wrong?'
'One of our... out-worker's contacts from NewTrishia Mission Control is in the Holopod down city. But our out-worker is out on...in another galaxy but this contact thinks she's here. Can you take care of him for the next couple of days until she returns?'
Mentor groans. Two days to return from an espionage mission, where in the five galaxies was she? He knew his manager was talking about one of their spies. He had no illusions about how the corporation worked.
'Just make sure he's kept busy until she returns. He's from Mission Control, remember that, this is one asset we want to keep. The hologram tour still has half an hour to go. Better hurry!'
His manager disconnects before Mentor can ask what the asset's name is.
Mentor belches loudly then goes and checks his face in the mirror in the small en-suite in his miniparment. For a thirty year old in his profession he had to take care of his appearance. Lack of sleep was the quickest way to eye bags. No one wanted to be recruited by someone looking drubby.
Luckily for Mentor his reflection is still perfect and so half an hour would be more than enough to get to the holopod. He taps the bathroom beauty bar and selects a deep shade of midnight blue for his outfit. It should complement his raven hair and eyes perfectly. He needs to make an good impression.
Edwear is almost asleep by the end of the tour and, as the sweeping vistas of the Alimentorum HQ are replaced with the stark, bright holopod wall he blinks, disorientated. He stumbles slightly as he gets up and the door opens flooding the pod with a draught of expensive perfume. Real perfume, not a cheap synthoscent but the kind of perfume Edwear would never afford. Deep spice notes and warm florals and something Edwear recognises from his childhood. A scent he had almost forgotten. Oranges.
He steps out of the pod to find himself face to face with Mentor. Not Mentor the unrealistically perfect hologram but Mentor, flesh and blood and beautiful, bathed in perfume.
'You're real?' Edwear can't help himself.
'Yep, 'fraid so. Didn't make you jump did I?'
'No..no, not expecting anyone to be here...' Edwear glances round nervously, who else knew he was here.
'Dont panic! I get an alert when an impressive prospective candidate takes the tour. And you are very impressive... can I just ask you to fill in the details on my digiwork...' Mentor hands over a digital file. 'You know how it is, have to make sure I don't miss anything out.'
Mentor's brilliant smile is like an embrace and Edwear fills in the digiform without demure.
'Thank you... Edwear, may I call you that? Good. Now, we need to go somewhere where you can tell me all about yourself. Do you have time now?'
'I should.. I should really get to work.'
'Of course. Let me give you a lift and then, how about I pick you up afterwards straight from your shift and we can go and have a meal and discuss what Alimentorum could offer you?'
Edwear stares up into Mentor's eyes and, despite his brain telling him there is no way a corporate hologram would just appear in real life outside a holopod at dawn to recruit a journey worker like him, Edwear finds himself smiling back and saying yes, that'd be fine.